For the first time in probably seven years I saddled up for a Buffalo Bills football game last Sunday. Mid-October, a perfectly reasonable time to watch football outdoors, not too cold, not too hot, jeans and a Bills tee if the sun is out. Maybe a light jacket if the wind picks up. You know, football weather. Not looking for a tough-guy, outdoorsy, uncomfortable day. Not interested in a weather-related experience at all…just a football game.
No such luck. Woke to snow, the first of the year, the earliest in recent memory, and an aching suspicion that this was exactly why I hadn’t been up I-90 to Rich Stadium for the better part of a decade. Too much work; dig out layers of clothes, pack the mini-van, find $60 parking, trudge to the game in heavy boots and runny nose. When you’re young you can talk yourself out of being cold. When you’re not, you can’t.
(Okay, full disclosure, I went to the game in a climate controlled luxury limousine, parked for free in the “Limo lot” about thirty yards from our gate. But still…)
Tailgating in the snow is not tailgating in the sun. Just so you know. And tailgating in the snow is a young man’s game. You can tell yourself things like, This is Buffalo! This is how we roll! Best tailgaters in the NFL. We’re tough. We don’t give two bits about the weather. And, guess what…still cold. Still can’t hold your beverage without a pair of gloves. Still eating your crock-pot chili luke-cold. Still squinting into snow blowing sideways. Still packing on layers, and stomping your feet on frigid asphalt. Still soaking up cold bottom-up on your industrial plastic seat, hands tucked into arm pits, blowing frozen vapor into the Orchard Park sky.
(Okay, full disclosure, my seat was under an overhang, with huge electric heaters pretending to be the sun. Food and beverage and restroom service was a few steps from glass doors, monitored by a stadium doorman, leading to the heated Jim Kelly Club, with about fifty T.V’s showing every NFL game in progress, full service bar and food stations, and clean, civil bathrooms. But still…)
Here’s the great truth we all talk ourselves out of (those of us who watch the games from our couch or a barstool), the hoax that Samsung and Visio and ESPN and FOX and a hundred advertisers want us to believe; no matter how wide the screen, no matter how sharp the picture, no matter how many speakers you plug in, no matter how entertaining the commercials, it’s the first look out onto that panoramic vision of a stadium football-field that never gets old. It’s the first time you emerge from your particular entrance and take it all in that is so magical and captivating. Your television can’t duplicate the dpi’s of living color, or the letterbox of peripheral vision, or the surround sound of 80,000 voices in casual murmur or full-throated roar. It’s what you forget when you haven’t been to a game in a while, when you’ve been lulled into a sense of the game by big T.V.’s comfortable couches, replays, update scrolls, and fantasy statistics.
And yet, when the game is only a third of the action and the rest is jumbo-tron gimmicks and contrived musical interludes, and TV time-outs, and the piped-in noise is louder than us 80,000 fans, the whole product feels…well, produced. I don’t need to be constantly engaged by the M&T Bank helmet races, stampeding cartoon buffaloes, Gary Glitter and Katie Perry and Uptown Funk or videos of people awkwardly kissing. With all the time and effort it takes to get to a game (compared with not going to the game), and already being overwhelmed and amused by freaks and drunks and lifers in every kind of Buffalo Bills gear you can imagine, I want my entertainment on the field with red-bullish energy and high-effort football by men who care as much about the outcome of the game as the blue and red painted people I sit next to in the stands. I mean I paid literally hundreds of dollars for this experience.
(Okay, full disclosure, my ticket was free, compliments of a friend. But still…)
To read more of Bill Burk’s reflections, astute observations and a rant or two on the wide world of sports, visit www. jamestowngazette.com and click on Bill Burk’s page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.